We’re inching up on Memorial Day, the official kickoff to summer—grilling season, backyard barbecues and family vacations. But Memorial Day is one holiday when every American should stop and give thanks to the men and women who served and died defending our country so that we can enjoy our carefree summer activities.
Patriotism really isn’t dead
We’re proud of what it means to be an American—a young upstart of a country recognized for its creativity, innovation and leadership. I believe that for each of us, there’s something that stirs a deep well of patriotism. For me it’s the Star-Spangled Banner at Giants games. More than 40,000 people looking out over San Francisco Bay and and that magnificent ballpark. For just a few minutes, there’s nothing more than the solidarity of being united in our love of baseball in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We get to the part about the “land of the free and the home of the brave” and I get a big lump in my throat. Every single time.
So here’s to the heroes, including the unspoken ones
My father—a medic during WWII. He must have seen nearly unimaginable horror, and yet he never—ever—spoke of it. We never knew where he served—he may have been in Africa or part of the horror of the Normandy landing. He never mentioned an experience his feelings or losing a buddy on the battlefield. Instead, he came home and got on with his life, building a successful business through hard work and sheer force of will. It was not just my own father—this entire generation of vets volunteered to serve their country, but when the war was over, they returned to civilian life without drama or fanfare. This was the generation that grew up during the depression, after all; they had never known pampering or excess.
My friend Chuck, an Army Ranger who won two Purple Hearts incountry in VietNam. Even as a young soldier, Chuck knew that this was just another politician’s war, and it was very, very wrong. He returned, not as a hero for sacrificing two years of his life, but to protests and derision. He put it all aside and had a long successful career with Pepsi Cola. It wasn’t until he retired that he began to experience the classic symptoms of what we now recognize as PTSD. He finds it curious and that at this time in his life he’s experiencing the nightmares that make him relieve the horrors of his battlefield experience some 40 years ago.
A salute to the endless number of service people who never made it home to rebuild their lives
The ones whose bodies were left on the bloody battlefields around the world. The wounded—those who have come home from our wars with debilitating injuries and somehow find the courage to reconstruct their lives. All in the name of patriotism.
A few things to think about this Memorial Day
- Since the Revolutionary War, we have lost 1,010,485 men and women in combat.
- The U.S. now has an estimated 1,473,900 men and women on active duty. Nearly 10,000 are in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Those with a flagpole will fly their flags at half-staff until noon.
- President Obama just ordered 250 more special forces troops to Syria to help fight the Islamic State militants, bringing the total to 300.
- Every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time, Americans will take one minute to remember and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed to defend our country.
This Memorial Day, let’s all take a moment to honor those who have served our country with bravery, distinction and extraordinary selflessness.